[Marxism] Socialist Voice: Why We Boycott Israel: A Reply to the US SWP

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Fri Aug 6 22:11:08 MDT 2010

On 8/6/2010 12:40 PM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> I think for all practical purposes the American SWP is moribund. I don't
> want to disparage anybody from answering their idiotic articles, but I
> personally wouldn't waste my time.

It may be true that the SWP is moribund, and I can hardly dispute that 
its positions on this and many other questions are idiotic. But the U.S. 
left is catatonic -- paralyzed by factionalism and sectarianism -- and 
that is something that needs to be taken into account.

The problem is NOT what the SWP or RCP or SLP or WWP or FSP or CP or 
PSL or even the non-"p's" like ISO or SA or SO or FRSO (both of them) 
do. Because they don't do shit, or as close to as makes no difference.

The problem is what they PREVENT. They prevent the fairly significant 
and sizable but atomized leftist/radical elements in the U.S. population 
from cohering into a movement.

There have been repeated polls and electoral outcomes in the last few 
years which clearly suggest that somewhere between 5 percent of the U.S. 
population to perhaps as many as 20 percent or more identify with some 
sort of "socialism" as a positive alternative to the current system. And 
somewhere close to half of the entire population have a negative view of 
capitalism as a system, even if they can't identify an alternative.

What is important IS NOT that many or most of the "socialist leaners" at 
this time at BEST identify with, say, what they imagine Sweden is like. 
What's important is the *direction of motion* that they would like the 
country to take, and the reality that in addition to the TENS of 
millions leaning our way, there are a several million with an advanced, 
radical critique of capitalism, a couple of million or at least hundreds 
of thousands who see some sort of socialism --roughly along the lines we 
conceive of it, and not just "Sweden"-- as better than KKKapitalism, and 
many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands who would support a political 
movement/pole/axis/party that espoused a radical ("transitional") 
immediate program that directly challenged the prerogatives of capital 
on the basis of championing human needs.

Things like the huge upsurge in the Latino community against the attacks 
on immigrants a few years ago, the Nader national campaigns, the Camejo 
campaigns in California, various local Black community struggles around 
everything from police brutality to enshrining the slavehoder's 
rebellion, Cynthia McKinney's years as the Congresswoman from Georgia's 
4th Congressional District, student and other sectoral movements against 
cutbacks, etc., show the potential that is out there.

It may seem like idiocy on my part to posit that groups which, at the 
very extreme most, may have dozens of members in a three or four cities, 
and mostly have handfuls of members in only the largest 10 or 20 urban 
areas, could prevent such a movement from cohering.

And, yes, I am certain that at a certain point, these outfits will 
either abandon their sectarianism and join the *movement* or be swept 
away like so much riff-raff, even if by then they have five, ten or 
twenty thousand members.

But *right now* there could be a movement, or at least the beginnings of 
one, if the existence of the sects were not sabotaging it at every turn. 
I know this is not their *intention* but it is the *reality* of setting 
up a structure around a distinct and separate *doctrine* different from 
everyone else's.

A real radical movement in the United States, if it could be put 
together today, would be a complete mess, monstrously incoherent, 
confused on just about every important question, lacking the mastery of 
even the ABC's of radical politics, never mind "proletarian" or 
"revolutionary" politics. That is as it SHOULD be, as it MUST be. The 
BEST that can be hoped for in the United States is that within a vague, 
amorphous radical movement a more coherent Marxist core can begin to 
consolidate on the basis of actual experiences, in other words, 
countless stupidities and mistakes.

THERE IS NO OTHER ROAD. And I believe that could be happening now.

The HOPE is --maybe it won't pan out, but this is it-- that this is 
going to be a downhil battle, that out of very tiny motion, we're going 
to get growing motion and eventually an avalanche.

The *problem* is that the sects impede the avalanche from beginning. And 
the beginning of necessity is going to have to be extremely tentative, 
limited, and therefore easy to divert or frustrate. We need the sects 
--all of them-- to decide that the best thing they can do in the 
interests of building a revolutionary party and opening the door to the 
bright, communist future of humanity is to dissolve. Liquidate.

And it is in that spirit that I, for one, welcome Ian Angus's critique 
of the SWP position on the boycott and Israel, just as I welcome all 
other demolitions of sect positions that aim to keep the faithful away 
from the mainstream of the radical movement.


PS: One of the things I've been intending to write for a couple of weeks 
is a statement on why I'm rejoining Solidarity. And I've realized I just 
did, about half or 2/3rds of it, anyways. The rest of it has to do with 
my personal circumstances --for more than a year a lot of my life has 
been focused on health issues, and now I'm coming out of that-- and with 
the crescendo of attacks on the Latino community and how responding to 
that fits in with building a new kind, a different type, of socialist 
organization, which even if Solidarity doesn't yet fully embody, 
although it very clearly, in my view, points the way towards it.

That last point has a lot to do with the local Soli group, and 
Solidarity in this region (the South) and what I see as its potential to 
become the nucleus of a political expression of the social movements, or 
begin to model that sort of idea.

One thing I haven't changed my mind on is that Solidarity also is a 
"sect" as I use the word. More precisely, it is the "anti-sect" sect. By 
"sect" I don't mean a group that is nasty towards other or self-absorbed 
and so on. I mean a group built around a doctrine which delimits its 

Solidarity's peculiarity is that its doctrine is not to build a group 
around a doctrine. It has the doctrine of NOT being doctrinal.

But that is still an *ideological* thing, not a group that's emerged as 
a non-doctrinal socialist group from actual social movements of working 
people. It seeks to become that -- or perhaps it would be better to say 
that's what many members want -- but that relates precisely to the 
distinction I'm trying to make: saying/hoping/working/building your 
group as a political expression of the social movements is one thing, 
actually BEING that is a different thing. The latter isn't something you 
can CREATE. It is something that has to HAPPEN.

IF it is happening, THEN your group can contribute to it, help it to 
cohere and take shape, but just having the ideological position that it 
should happen, and a praxis in that direction, is not the same thing. 
However, it is the best you can do pending further developments.

More information about the Marxism mailing list